E The Road To A Post-Corona Boom (Foreign Policy) - Part 3

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In the previous comments from this series, the comments often turned to China. In particular, the debate centered on whether China was culpable in the spread of the virus and, if so, what to do about it. It is that question that forms the basis of this article.

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Any answer must arise in the context of our foreign policy and what it seeks to accomplish.

Unlike many other issues, the Blue-Red divide is not a clear one when it comes to foreign policy. There are interventionalists and isolationists (and idealists and pragmatists) in both parties. JFK escalated in Vietnam, Bush Jr. in Iraq and Afghanistan. Clinton watched the Rwanda massacre, but Obama got involved in Libya and with ISIS. Both Clinton and Bush Jr. ignored the Congo Civil Wars (around 3-6 million dead, in case you missed it) while both Clinton and Bush Sr. intervened in Somalia (until Blackhawk Down).

Instead of a broad perspective, Americans seem to take individual positions on individual issues. If you mention China, Iraq, Syria, Venezuela, Russia, Israel or Iran everybody has an opinion. Those opinions tend to be based on their characterization of the other country involved: we have to do X because they do Y.

What the US lacks, what it has lacked at least since the capture of the Philippines from Spain, is a clear foreign policy objective. Prior to the Philippines, the general consensus could have been seen as ‘keep Europe out of our Hemisphere.”

After the Philippines, it split into two camps:

  1. Save the world
  2. Protect our core national interest

Other nations don’t suffer from this confusion. For many of them, their foreign policies can be clearly boiled down to a single principle:

  • France: protect French national interests, forget everything else
  • Israel: protect Jews everywhere
  • Communist China: rebuild pride with the Greater China Dream (it is a big dream, a Chinese national once explained to me that Hungary was Chinese because the Mongols conquered it)
  • Iran: establish Shia Islamic hegemony
  • Russia: Insulate against Western threats
  • Etc…

The tension between our two foreign policies results in dangerous confusion. We get involved in wars without a clear mission and other global players are often confused about whether we are seeking freedom or hegemony. At the same time, our national mission extends our national interest. Iraq is a great example: we defeated Saddam in 1991 but promised the Kurds support. We didn’t deliver, and Saddam massacred them. By 2001, we had developed a national interest in making up for our betrayal of the Kurds 8 years earlier. It spoke to our basic trustworthiness on the world stage. The follow-on effects of that extension in national interest are still unfolding.

Iraq was not the first time this has happened.

Our two foreign policy objectives have resulted in conflicts that do little to improve reality while costing us dearly in treasure, lives, and national reputation.

There have been periods when things were different.

The free world achieved great strides in extending freedom in the last days of the USSR. That took clarity of mission and messaging – particularly from Margaret Thatcher, President Reagan and the Pope. It was helped by a lack of that same clarity on the part of the USSR; perestroika was a weakening of ideological resolve.

Today, our efforts in the face of Chinese Communist imperialism and Islamic extremism have been muddled at best. Bush Jr. was willing to talk about freedom, but had no idea about how to get there. Obama and Trump both seem far more muddled, and no more effective.

Today, Communist China, Iran, Russia, and even ISIS have clear missions. We do not. We don’t know what we want, much less how to get it.

Clarity in mission is critical not only to our footprint outside our borders but to the health of our Republic within our borders. France can be about protecting the French, but that isn’t enough for us. Americans aren’t defined by ethnicity or language. Americans seek to define themselves by values.

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Vintage Vixen 1 month ago Member's comment

Good stuff.

William K. 1 month ago Member's comment

Some apologists for the unfortunate reality that STUPID low level government fools chose to obstruct the warnings that were given. The report that China had created an effective warning network that the local governments chose to avoid using suggests that perhaps a harsher means is needed to convince future government officials to avoid hiding the truth. A firing squad comes to mind, televised and mandatory viewing for those in government. Considering the lives lost already certainly they have committed a capital crime. And if a recurrence is prevented then certainly it would be appropriate. It appears that the desire to avoid upsetting people instead has lead to the death of thousands.

Angry Old Lady 1 month ago Member's comment

A firing squad? I assume you are being facetious. But tell me more about this warning network that was ignored. I had not read about that anywhere.

William K. 4 weeks ago Member's comment

Of course the existence of such a reporting system was not mentioned, it would make a lot of the individuals lose face.

The system was created by the ruling government after the SARS outbreak so that Peking would not be embarrassed again by not being aware of the problem in time to act.

AND, as for the firing squad: How would YOU deal with a collection of lower level people whose refusal to follow the rules resulted in the rapid death of thousands of people?? A public execution by firing squad might possibly prevent it from being repeated. AND don't forget that China IS still a police state!

Joseph Cox 4 weeks ago Author's comment

These sorts of measures don't often result in the better communication of information. People are too worried about punishment for issues that aren't actually their fault. I work in civilian aerospace. When an accident occurs (in the West), they don't fire the pilots and staff involved. This is only done if there was malice involved. Instead, they interview everybody, figure out what went wrong, and adjust procedures appropriately. It works tremendously well. When they fire people, performance and procedures do not improve.

Fear of firing squads didn't make the USSR function and it won't work in China either.

Angry Old Lady 4 weeks ago Member's comment

This is true. China is a police state and would not hesitate to execute government officials - they do it when they are caught accepting bribes. But I'm glad we don't live in China.

William K. 1 month ago Member's comment

I found this article very interesting. The author makes good points and has worthwhile suggestions. Probably it would be benneficial to publish this article so that many more could read it.

Susan Miller 1 month ago Member's comment

I found the article interesting as well. You can always share it with friends via email and social media.

Joseph Cox 1 month ago Author's comment

That was the goal of the piece :)

You might enjoy the related book (City on the Heights) - although it only focuses on the seed...

Gary Anderson 1 month ago Contributor's comment

This unfortunate article is calling for the destruction of world GDP. The US law and sanctions are not international. But we project those laws as if they were international. We are the bully, not a moral value keeper.

DRM 1 month ago Member's comment

By the way, GDP stands for Gross "Domestic" Product, the monetary value of all finished goods and services made within a country, not worldwide. Yes the USA is a bully and I think that sucks. But, no one is big enough to win a fight with this bully.

Joseph Cox 1 month ago Author's comment

I'm not suggesting US law be international law. I'm suggesting the rule of law (in general) be fostered globally. It might be helpful to note that wealthy countries tend to have the rule of law. The two go hand-in-hand. Not coincidentally, China has both a per-capita GDP and a rule of law score somewhat lower than that of Thailand.

China is not a wealthy country, it just builds concentrations of wealth on the backs of a billion people. Like many totalitarian dictatorships it puts on a good show by eating away at the values of a well-balanced society. Law is, naturally, one of the first casualties.

To support the rule of law is not to be a bully - it is to stand up to those who would be bullies.

Of course the US is a bully in some ways (see the note on assassinations), which is one reason I'm suggesting a shift a policy.

Gary Anderson 1 month ago Contributor's comment

I would not be fooled. Check out the CIA website for which nation has the strongest GDP by purchasing power parity. China is trillions ahead of us.

DRM 1 month ago Member's comment

Please explain. "The coronavirus has highlighted the dangers of societies without law."

Joseph Cox 1 month ago Author's comment

It appear the virus got out because China preferred harsh suppression of what was actually happening to any sort of helpful admission. They shut down transparency, they censured doctors for sharing the reality, they banned Taiwan from sharing their very early findings and they moved mountains to keep it all quiet. With the rule of law, none of this would have been able to happen quite so easily. Given warning and data (both of which were available), the world could have prepared far more effectively. Two more months of notice could have done us all a lot of good.

Local authorities afraid of extra-legal punishment and central authorities unable to accept accountability led directly to the virus being what it is.

DRM 1 month ago Member's comment

Who writes the law in each society? Does the law not come from the culture of the society? Perhaps you mean the dangers of societies without "Common" law, "Anglo-American" law or "Western" law, all derived from a Christian culture. I'm sure that Chinese law, just as Russian law is derived from the culture of those societies. I mentioned in another post that "One of the biggest problems we face is the insane idea that all cultures have the same morals, values and ethics as we do." We cannot trust that our values are shared by China. They feel no need to respect Common, Anglo-American, Western law. Besides, they are atheists. They will never fit in with the West, just like Turkey will never fit in with the EU. At least Russia has a long history of Christianity. Law is not the answer to our problems with China.

Joseph Cox 1 month ago Author's comment

Of course other cultures don't share our values. That's why I define the rule of law in such a limited way: transparent, predictable, equal and protected by some form of accountability. This gives a *lot* of leeway. It protects against the abuse of power, arbitrary taking etc... but not against laws many Americans would find fundamentally distasteful.

Singapore kills drug dealers and aggressively suppresses the freedom of speech. It suppresses homosexual activity. It is still quite lawful. Korea, Taiwan and Japan maintain unique non-Western cultures but are still lawful. Although Taiwan isn't ranked by the WJP (I use their rankings although I prefer something a little more limited), both Korea and Japan rank above the United States. Japan, as an aside, adopted a *Roman* legal structure (not a Common Law one). They share this with Louisiana.

An economically Communist society could be transparent, predictable, equal and protected by accountability. So could a capitalist one. A religious one could as well, either by having genuinely good leadership (willing to deliver transparency, predictability and equality due to divine accountability) or by having mechanisms to displace corrupt religious leadership. It is rare that either economically Communist or theocratic governments achieve this. They tend to stumble on the accountability side, which unravels all the rest.

I am personally religious and believe that walking in the path of G-d is fundamentally rewarding. I see this involving a cycle of creation and rest (six days of work and then a Sabbath). I support laws that encourage work (see my tax proposal) and as well as laws that enable restfulness (see my healthcare and welfare proposals). I even believe it is healthy for a society to have a Sabbath, although I wouldn't legally enforce any particular definition of it.

Mine is a lawful approach, it just focuses on particular values.

Even the UAE, a country with very distinct values and a tribal system, ranks reasonably highly. The WJP puts them at 30th (their great weaknesses are open government, fundamental rights and constraints on government power but they rank well at absence of corruption, order, justice and regulatory enforcement). Next door Iran scores quite poorly (109th) - right alongside more 'western' Turkey (107th).

In my book, the City on the Heights, a form of law is developed that doesn't exist anywhere. It is intended to integrate disparate legal forms in the Arab/Muslim world, the Shia (and to a lesser degree Sunni) legal systems *can* be quite strong by the transparent, predictable and accountable measures. Even equality can be reasonably strong, depending on the school being followed. But the conflict between the Shia and Sunni systems can create a legal vacuum that has led to mass slaughter and war.

As another aside, the Sunni legal systems are a little more challenging because the mechanisms for codification and legal consistency are limited. Every case is more unique than it is in other systems, hampering predictability and transparency.

The rule of law is about creating a playing field - not about determining who scores the goals.

That is why I find it comforting that the cultural competition in the US is overwhelmingly lawful. Americans mostly carry out their cultural competition through elections, courts and regulations. Despite being mostly lawful, American society 70 years ago was quite distinct from the society of today. The obvious and massive exception was the unequal, unpredictable and non-transparent discrimination against Blacks. Even today, Utah is quite distinct from San Francisco although both are reasonably lawful.

So, no, this isn't about ango-saxon law. It is just about the rule of law in a very general sense.

Robert Dawson 1 month ago Member's comment

The problem with religion is that it's leaders are human and as easily susceptible to corruption, greed, vice, pride and many other human failings. Far too many injustices in the world are committed using religion as an excuse. Virtually every war has religion as a root cause. Sure, in ideal world, religion can be beautiful and helpful, but in reality, it is anything but.

Joseph Cox 1 month ago Author's comment

The argument that religion is the root of all wars is that you'd have to make Nazi Fascism and Communism religious. They are belief systems, but that is unavoidable. Both saw themselves as deeply scientific and nothing has cost more blood than those ideologies.

I did say it was rare for religious and communist governments to achieve the rule of law.

That said, it is precisely religious government that has enabled our modern conception of rights. Devout Christians were at the heart of the English Civil War which resulted in the first codification of a formal freedom of religion and freedom of speech. And it was Christians that fought the abomination of black slavery.

Religion can be quite positive - it just tends to be more effective outside the halls of power. Communism, at least the concept of ensuring people have what they need, can also be very positive - but not so much when it gets into politics.

Robert Dawson 1 month ago Member's comment

I know religious can be quite positive. It can offer hope and encourage people to stay honest (assuming they believe God sees all). But I still believe it is the root of most if not all wars.

In fact an argument can be made that Nazi fascism and communism were a war against religion in that they targeted Jews and viewed those whom held God as the ultimate authority to be a threat to their own authority.

William K. 1 month ago Member's comment

The intrinsic flaw of communism is that in actual implementation it puts power in the hands of a few folks, and unfortunately that power always corrupts them. Not always in the same manner, but it always corrupts. It is closely related to the UTOPIA theory, which teaches that somehow humanity can be forced into perfection by means of enough regulation. The illogic of that presumption should be obvious to all rational persons.

DRM 1 month ago Member's comment

Try having a rational conversation with a Marxist. It's impossible, because they are driven by emotions, not reason.

Cynthia Decker 1 month ago Member's comment

Very thought provoking and well said. There's so much I could say on this William! :)

Gary Anderson 1 month ago Contributor's comment

We do not need to share our values. We have killed more people than most nations. We have killed leaders everywhere. We have no moral authority. It is fake news. We have often kept peace, but we have made war more than most But if we wanted peace now we would stop the trade war. China and Asia will leave us in the dust. It is just a matter of time.

Joseph Cox 1 month ago Author's comment

In the final note, I wrote specifically about assassinations - criticizing US actions in this area. I'm guessing you didn't read to the end.

The trade war is a different matter. There was a time everybody thought Russia would leave us in the dust, but they didn't. Then everybody thought Japan would leave us in the dust, but they didn't. Now it is China's turn.

People love centrally-directed systems, but they fail to see their limits. The reality is that centrally-directed systems have very real limits on their economic growth. They stifle the ground-level feedback mechanisms that direct continual, organic, economic growth in ways central planners never can. They also enable corruption that short-circuits what feedback mechanisms exist.

The confluence of wealth and power is also enough to make an American blush. In 2019, the top ten Chinese lawmakers had a combined net worth of $239 billion. The 10 richest members of the US Congress have a combined net worth of $1.16 billion. Even if you add Trump in for fun, it is under $3.5 billion.

China has a concentration of wealth and a kleptocracy. It is not a genuinely wealthy country.

If you want to go by purchasing parity, China has per-capita PPP of $16,842. Taiwan, a free society, is at $55,000. The United States is $59,000.

China as a unitary body is powerful, but its people are poor. China has a long way to go before its people are well-off.

I believe they will never get there under their current system of government.

Gary Anderson 1 month ago Contributor's comment

I am certain China will leave us behind if we divorce China. It will take them a little longer but our companies are begging to stay engaged with China. There consumer spending is 40 percent of GDP, very balanced. If our consumers are hit, GDP drops like a rock. They have room to grow in that area, which would be good for US companies. We are maxed out at 70 % of GDP.

Dan Richards 1 month ago Member's comment

I often enjoy and read your comments Gary, but why are you so pro-China? It seems you are more pro-China than pro-US. I don't get it.

Gary Anderson 1 month ago Contributor's comment

I am not pro China. I am pro America. But America cannot prosper without China. Because China will forge worldwide relationships while we want to do a trade war with Europe as well. The United Statds is undermining future prosperity and Trump has fooled most Americans. He is a destructive force.

DRM 1 month ago Member's comment

How did America ever manage to prosper before the we enabled China to compete with us globally, by giving them our manufacturing and technology secrets and later, letting them steal them, without consequence?

Susan Miller 1 month ago Member's comment

I do think we need someone tough to make sure we get good trade deals. But I do agree that when it comes to both #COVID-19 and the #riots, that #Trump is a destructive force.

DRM 1 month ago Member's comment

How do you suggest the riots be stopped, or do you suggest that they just go on until the country is at civil war, because that is what will happen if the government doesn't stop the riots. Good, solid, patriotic citizens will stand up and fight for their rights and safety, if it comes to that.

Texan Hunter 1 month ago Member's comment

Would it really be so bad to call in the military or national guard to help. I'm not talking about the protests, I'm talking about the riots, lootings, beatings and arson. Innocent people who are simply trying to protect their homes and business are being attacked.

I am not saying to open fire, just as a presence to deter. The police are overwhelmed and can't be everywhere at once.

DRM 1 month ago Member's comment

Ask a Marxist this question and they will say, "NEVER". Not only do they not want the Military called in, they want the police forces around the country disbanded. I suggest a simple experiment. Withdraw the police and military from just one city governed by a Democrat and see what happens. I pick Minneapolis. Seriously, past presidents have called in the military to stop riots. Trump has the legal authority to do the same and he will not have been the first to do it, as the Marxists accuse him of being.

Texan Hunter 1 month ago Member's comment

I find it very disturbing that so many people are attacking the police when most officers would risk their lives to protect a total stranger. Sure there are a few bad apples but most take their pledge to protect and serve seriously.

It's also upsetting that so many governors and mayors have turned their back on the police - not let them defend themselves or give them the support they need. Any officer who tries to defend himself in the current climate gets fired. Who will want to join the police force now. And then who will protect the innocent?

DRM 1 month ago Member's comment

You are 100% correct! Re-elect Trump and elect Republicans as mayors, governors and congressman/senators and see the difference.

Tom Callahan 1 month ago Member's comment

Texan Hunter, I agree. If I were a police officer, I'd want to go on strike right now. If all the cops simply failed to show up to work today, there would be complete anarchy. Who would protect the mayor then. Mayor de Blasio should resign!

Gary Anderson 1 month ago Contributor's comment

Trump is gearing up to destroy our relationship with Europe. Europe's argument is that Google and Facebook glean valuable customer information without paying for it. So Europe wants to tax them. Seems reasonable. But Trump can't see much that is reasonable.

DRM 1 month ago Member's comment

I think I have you figured out! You just like to say foolish things, without facts to back them up, just to rile up those here trying to have an intelligent conversation.

Gary Anderson 1 month ago Contributor's comment

I did not make a foolish comment and you certainly just attacked me and not the comments. The Trump cult draws people into its web. You appear to be a victim, DRM.

DRM 1 month ago Member's comment

I'm no one's victim! I'm much better educated and far more experienced than most people today. I graduated at the top of my MBA class, have years of military and business experience, am a successful financially independent Entrepreneur, as well as being an independent thinker. I'm a former US Army, Infantry, Airborne, Ranger and French Commando trained officer, 6'4" tall, with an athletic build, a very strong alpha male, who served on the border opposite the former Soviet Union. Since then I've traveled around the world, flying more than 3 million miles, 2 million on American Airlines alone. I've done business in China and Hong Kong, as well as Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Australia. I've lived, mostly in Russia for the past 5½ years, enjoying the spoils of our Cold War victory over the Marxists Soviets. And yes, Russian women are the most beautiful in the world and they still hold on tightly to the traditional role of women and expect their men to be men! So, again, I'm no one's victim, no one's "useful idiot".

Stock Tigress 1 month ago Member's comment

You sound great DRM, send me your digits ;-)

Michael Monk 1 month ago Member's comment

These are good points, Joseph.